Over the years I've had more than my fair share of hm...how to put it...'interesting' neighbours.
Ranging from the woman who kept a horse in her living room (I jest ye not) to the family who borrowed a friends goat to keep their grass short! I mean how did that conversation go?
Her: (eyes glued to Loose Women) "Grass needs cutting we're gonna have to buy a mower"
Him: (scratching a beer gut threatening to escape a gravy stained vest) "Nah, sod it, give Ken a ring, see if his goat's busy this weekend"
A further point of interest regarding both horse and goat is that, like mine, the homes and gardens they frequented were not part of some countrified landscape. There were no large, echoing rooms befitting a stately home to wander through, nor were there acres of rambling pastures to graze and gallop upon.
Nope, these houses were just your ordinary town residences, hardly big enough to swing a cat...as another neighbour of mine once discovered just prior to his arrest.
Still, mad these people may have been but at least they were pet friendly!
And then of course there was the lovely Mr and Mrs Peters. Both in their late seventies and a delight to live next to, back in the day. However, just like any of us, they could be prone to the odd mood swing, as happened shortly after we brought a cat home to stay with us.
Our back gardens were adjacent to the other and separated by a low fence which didn't afford any privacy but neither of our families were invasive of the other so all worked out well.
One day, after a pain-in-the-arse kinda day at work, I walked into the garden to calm down with a fag ( packed in years ago, best thing I ever did...is the lie I keep telling myself. Sometimes I've walked past someone who's puffing away on a cigarette and I've inhaled their spent smoke with such zeal, I've taken their ash with it!) anyway, Mr Peters was quick to beckon me over to him.
As he did so I noticed he held a photograph in his hand.
"Take a look at this" he said, in an unusually gruff manner.
I did as he asked, politely smiled, even though a tad perplexed and said, "What lovely hedgehogs" 'cos they were but I'd no idea as to why he was sharing this image of the prickly pair with me. I was knackered and in no mood for a David Attenborough moment!
"Yes! They WERE lovely weren't they?"
Mr Peters eyebrows, so long and thick it may have been worth considering tie backs, began to slide down his anger creased brow to meet with the other in the middle of his nose, which itself was host to nostrils flaring like bellows!
I had no idea what kind of a response was expected of me here so I just stood still and hoped for a clue, quietly marvelling at the gloss on Mr Peter's ear hair as it fluttered slightly in the wind.
"Me and Mrs Peters have fed these hedgehogs every night for years and now, because of your cat, they've gone"
"Gone? Mr Peters I'm sorry to hear that they've gone but I don't see how my cat can be responsible, she hasn't been out of the house yet!"
His little rheumy eyes narrowed as he practically spat.
"They must have seen it in your window then! It must have been goading them!! Mrs Peters is very upset!" and with that he sharply turned to walk back into his house, photo grasped in palm, passing Mrs Peters who had, by then, come to stand on the back step.
Now awaiting to suffer Mrs Peter's reprimand, I remained rooted to the spot and watched her turn to check if Mr Peters was out of earshot before she spoke
"Filthy, flea riddled, disease carrying, freeloaders!. I hate the spiky little bastards. Oh, and forgive Mr Peters outburst, the hedgehogs disappearance had nothing to do with your cat. But if you don't mind, there's no need to tell him that, is there?" and with a gentle smile and a mischievous glint in her eye, into the house she returned.
I never did ask Mrs Peters what had actually happened to the hedgehogs. All I know is, the next time I saw her she was wearing a pair of dodgy looking shoes!
( to be continued)...
© Copyright Lynn Gerrard